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Bankman-Fried to agree to U.S. extradition in about-face after Bahamas hearing -lawyers

2022-12-19T20:33:23Z

A prison van delivered Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of bankrupt crypto exchange FTX, to a court in the Bahamas on Monday, where he was expected to agree to be extradited to the United States to face fraud charges.

Sam Bankman-Fried has now decided to agree to be extradited to the United States to face fraud charges, two of his lawyers said on Monday, just hours after one of them told a Bahamas judge the FTX founder wanted to see the U.S. indictment against him before consenting.

On Monday afternoon, Jerone Roberts, Bankman-Fried’s criminal defense lawyer in The Bahamas, told media outlets including the New York Times that his client had agreed to be voluntarily extradited and that he hoped Bankman-Fried would be back in court later this week.

“We as counsel will prepare the necessary documents to trigger the court,” the Times quoted Roberts as saying. “Mr. Bankman-Fried wishes to put the customers right, and that is what has driven his decision.”

Roberts could not immediately be reached for comment.

Krystal Rolle, a lawyer who has represented Bankman-Fried on other matters in the Bahamas, told Reuters Bankman-Fried had decided to consent to be extradited to the United States.

Earlier in the day, Roberts said during a court hearing in Nassau that his client had seen an affidavit laying out the charges against him over FTX’s dramatic collapse, but had not yet read the indictment filed last week in Manhattan federal court.

After the hearing, Bankman-Fried was remanded back to the custody of the Bahamas’ Department of Corrections. He departed the courthouse in a black van marked “Corrections,” carrying a manila folder containing papers, a Reuters witness said.

Mark Cohen, a U.S. lawyer who represents Bankman-Fried, did not respond to requests for comment. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan and a spokesperson for Bankman-Fried also did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The 30-year-old crypto mogul rode a boom in the value of bitcoin and other digital assets to become a billionaire several times over and an influential political donor in the United States, until FTX collapsed in early November after a wave of withdrawals. The exchange declared bankruptcy on Nov. 11.

Manhattan federal prosecutors have charged Bankman-Fried with stealing billions of dollars in FTX customer deposits to plug losses at his hedge fund, Alameda Research.

Bankman-Fried has acknowledged risk-management failures at FTX but said he does not believe he has criminal liability.

He was arrested on Dec. 12 in the Bahamas – where he lives and where FTX is based – after federal prosecutors in New York accused him of misleading lenders and investors, conspiring to launder money and violating U.S. campaign finance laws.

Bankman-Fried initially had said he would fight extradition, but a source told Reuters on Saturday that the former billionaire would return to court to reverse his decision.

During Monday’s hearing, Bankman-Fried, dressed in a dark blue jacket and an untucked white shirt, spoke only to greet Magistrate Shaka Serville and confirm he would speak with his U.S. counsel. At one point during the hearing, he leaned back with his eyes closed and appeared to be awakened by a court official.

Roberts told Serville initially that he did not know why Bankman-Fried was brought to court on Monday morning. Following a recess, the lawyer said Bankman-Fried wanted to see the indictment before consenting to extradition.

When the hearing concluded, Bankman-Fried was given the chance to speak on the phone with his U.S. defense lawyer with Roberts present. No further court date was set.

Serville said at the hearing that he could not take any action on Bankman-Fried’s extradition without Bankman-Fried’s consent.

“I can only be moved by Mr. Bankman-Fried, and he has not moved me,” Serville said.

Franklyn Williams – the Bahamas’ deputy director of legal affairs, who is representing the United States in its push to extradite Bankman-Fried – called the day’s proceedings “incredible” and appeared frustrated by the delay.

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The Founder and former CEO of crypto currency exchange FTX Sam Bankman-Fried leaves the Magistrate Court building in Nassau, Bahamas December 19, 2022. REUTERS/Marco Bello

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A view of the Magistrate Court building where Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder and former CEO of crypto currency exchange FTX, is expected to appear later today to reverse his decision to contest extradition to the United States, in Nassau, Bahamas December 19, 2022. REUTERS/Marco Bello

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